Just last week, a friend and I were reminiscing of the so called glory days of gaming, i.e. the 8-Bit and 16-Bit days. In particular, I offered the point that what was once the last bastion of old-school, portables, had now reached a state that they were little more than handheld versions of the “next gen” hardware we used just a decade ago. In short, software programmer’s prerogative to do more with less has been done away with, and now developing something as “simple” as a Nintendo 3DS game takes considerable effort if someone wants their product to be seen as “good”. This goes double for smartphone and tablets, where specs rival those of many PCs.
As a self-proclaimed “retro gamer”, I am endlessly on the lookout for anything and everything that might spur a flashback to the extraordinary imaginative worlds that once existed. Not on screen mind you, but in my mind: games like the original Metroid were anything but “detailed”, yet the simplicity allowed you to fill in the details. While there are some fantastic products on the Google Play Store, if you are like me, chances are you’ve seen all the “big names” and either played through them or else skipped them entirely.
What I am about to share, then, may be of great interest to all those who are dissatisfied with the mainstream market. I have created a list of games that are oddly obscure despite being so darn awesome. With that, I give you the list.
This game is nothing short of a masterpiece. In many ways, the concept behind it is similar to the “Gaia Trilogy” on the SNES, specifically Soul Blazer and Terranigma, yet it is also a pastiche of the entire JRPG genre, from past-to-present. The game begins with a small rectangle of black-and-white visibility akin to something you would find back on the original GameBoy. As the game progresses, you find treasure chests that slowly but surely evolve the world into a modern game. 16-bit colors, 3D graphics, monsters, magic, NPCs, dungeons… it’s literally as if you were playing a graphic version of a game development timeline.
I was absolutely blown away with the amount of effort that was put into this product, and couldn’t recommend it more. The price tag might be a bit steep for those more apt to the freemium model, but suffice to say it’s well spent. Several of the comments mention the game’s short length, but the ability to relive your childhood and the evolution of the RPG genre itself is something that can only be described as priceless.
This sci-fi game has a typical setup: the main character is sent to a seemingly innocuous planet to investigate what happened to a research team gone missing. The adventure itself is relatively simple but contains some tension and challenge while offering a story that develops as the mission progresses, and even includes hidden items to find. Though it looks like the app would make for a pretty mean Metroid-clone, it’s much more straightforward. Fortunately the next game…
Perhaps the single-most true homage to Metroid that has ever been made, this game can only be described as incredible. The main character begins the game with nothing more than a jet pack. Just as with Metroid, you must find various power-ups along the way to allow access to larger and more expansive parts of the world. The only down side is the lack of music (sound effects are present, however), though it shouldn’t be too difficult to search for “Metroid Soundtrack” and set up some adequate background music.
The game allows you to play the first portion absolutely for free, after which there will be an IAP to allow access to the remainder of the world map.
This diamond in the rough was just discovered last night, and indeed I’m still smirking over it. Picture, if you will, the recent spade of “gravity” based games, the likes of which usually consist of an endless runner scenario. Now imagine this concept as applied to a “Metroidvania” world map and featuring music in the style of Mega Man. You are the Captain of an interstellar ship. After a disaster occurs, you must rescue your crew who have all been scattered around the area. There are no enemies, but there are instant deaths. Thousands of them. The game’s very title is a reference to the spikes that litter most of the rooms in the game.
This game isn’t so much “epic” as it is a novelty. Similar to how iOS has “The Last Rocket” and its semi-sequel “Flip’s Escape”, Super Gravitron is a “spin-off” of sorts to VVVVVV. In the vein of a classic arcade game, you must avoid an endless stream of obstacles that come at the Captain from either side. I’ve yet to survive longer than 4.5 seconds despite playing for a good ten minutes. The incredible chiptune music ensures that you want to keep playing to hear more, and the presence of awards for reaching survival accomplishments (the first being 5 seconds) means you are always almost there.
The third game by Terry Cavanagh, this app is somewhat akin to an “endless runner” type setup, as evident by the name, “Don’t Look Back”. The graphics are reminiscent of the early NES-days, and for some reason “Bart Simpson’s: Escape from Camp Deadly” for the original Game Boy comes to mind. Very simple controls and gameplay make for a very nice bit of nostalgia.
This is a game that is heavily inspired by some serious love of the Game Boy. It’s actually very cute while at the same time being incredibly difficult. The goal is to guide your player character along the various maps, but due to the control set-up, things are anything but easy: the crux of the game play revolves around your being a “bird” and thus having to fly. If you had trouble with Flappy Bird, this isn’t going to be a ride in the park either, though at least the nostalgia factor present is enough to justify the purchase. A more “basic” version called “Endless Doves” is also available, and for free at that.
8bit Doves can be downloaded from the Play Store by clicking here.
So, there you have it. 7 games that you probably had never heard of, yet all will (hopefully) tickle the old-school gamer in your heart. Be sure to leave a comment below with any feedback or other suggestions for anything I might have missed.